|Dude just radiates evil, doesn't he?|
The story of the Black Paladin begins in Arthurian legend or, more precisely, the Arthurian legend of Champions Universe. Which is really perfect. Comics are full of mythical mashups and edits, just look at DC's Etrigan, or Marvel's Thor. The Black Paladin is firmly in that style of character. According to the legends, he was an evil knight, a member of a cult devoted to dark powers and the arch-enemy of Launcelot, best knight of the Round Table. Nearly slain by his foe, Sir Giles was placed in a magical slumber by his lover, a powerful evil witch. Thus he remained for many centuries, until awakened by an American archaeology student. Sir Giles tortured the young man, learned of this new age, and then killed him, taking his identity (John Black). He now fights the knights of this age, who festoon themselves in skintight cloth, once again championing the cause of evil.
Pretty great, huh? In terms of his actual write-up, he's far from the most powerful villain in the book (322 points), but he is incredibly effective. Much of this is down to his magical mace, which can do 10d6 when thrown, but 15d6 as a melee attack, due to the ever-broken Hand-to-Hand Attack power. His magic armor and shield provide him with enough protection to stand toe-to-toe with a heavy brick, and probably take him down. His powers are all equipment-based (OAF or OIF), so if you can get him without his gear, he's vulnerable. But he does have Instant Change, which I assume is a magical summoning of it to him, so good luck with that.
But the stats are really only part of the picture. I love this guy because he has style. He's full of florid speeches and morbid imagery. He's the Death Metal counterweight to your bright and shiny Pop Star Heroes. And with his magical origins, he's easy to fit into just about any situation dealing with the darker arts. Have a powerful sorcerer who needs a bloodthirsty lieutenant? Call the Black Paladin. Evil cult of derivatives traders in need of a dark artifact and they don't want to get their hands dirty? Call the Black Paladin. Need the firstborn sons of an entire village slain in order to summon an Elder Horror? Knight of the Crow, says it right on his business card.
When I've used him, I've given him some skills in Occult and other esoterica, just because it seems right. He's a terrific foe for any sort of a magical hero; someone with a knightly theme is obvious, but straight-up sorcerers might find him even more menacing, what with the whole physical violence thing. My favorite of his official appearances was in the 5th edition adventure Shades of Black, wherein he tries to resurrect his long-dead lover. It's terrific.
I've noticed I don't get a lot of comments here, which is fine (I get quire a few in other places where I post links), but I wouldn't mind some. If you've used the Black Paladin in your own games, feel free to share with the class.